Art Versus Equality

Monday, June 11, 2018

Love Unites Us: Winning the Freedom to Marry in America tells the thrilling, momentous story of the three-decade struggle leading to the U.S. Supreme Court victory in 2015 in support of marriage equality. But the story did not end there. Like all civil rights advances, this victory must be defended against attack. On June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court failed to affirm the right of a same-sex couple in Colorado to do what other couples do when planning a wedding—buy a wedding cake. The proprietor of a bakery had turned the couple away, announcing that he would not make a cake for them because of his religious beliefs. In the case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court ruled narrowly, finding that the baker had been wrongfully denied a fair hearing by that state’s civil rights agency. While disappointing in its failure to deliver a resounding rejection of the baker’s arguments, the court's ruling affirmed in general that same-sex couples should be protected from social stigma and discrimination, while leaving for another day the question of whether religious beliefs and free expression rights can ever justify discrimination in the public sphere. 


This battle between anti-LGBTQ religious forces and proponents of equal rights is not new, and it is not over. Legislation and similar cases are currently pending around the country. In Love Unites Us, Jennifer C. Pizer (author of the chapter “Shields Not into Swords: Stopping the Misuse of Religious Freedom for Discrimination”) writes that “as the pace of our marriage wins accelerated… so did our opponents’ determination to secure religion-based rights to thwart our inclusion.” Love Unites Ushelps us understand the history, strategies, and struggles that brought marriage equality to our country so that we may be better prepared to defend and protect it.